A little money won't help


This is just one more example of how throwing money at a social problem won’t solve anything. Sex offenders living under a bridge in Miami-Dade County, Florida, are receiving federal stimulus money to help them find housing. If poverty were the real culprit here, then a little extra cash could make everything better. But it’s not.

Rather, ridiculously harsh residency restrictions for sex offenders and public paranoia quarantine these men and women into huddled masses beneath a makeshift shelter.  

People with sex-offense convictions in Miami-Dade County have to stay 2,500 feet away from public places where children gather—like schools, libraries, and parks. Evidence shows that draconian laws such as these do not make us safer. Instead, they sweep up a whole slew of men and women who pose no risk to the public, slap a label on them, and make their lives nearly impossible. 

Protecting the public is an honorable goal. But, these laws are not the way to do it. Until we reject them—and the false ideas that undergird them—our modern-day leper colonies will continue to exist.

Comments:

This is the problem I have with these offender lists. If the person still presents a danger, especially to children, then why let them out where they can hurt another child? If they aren't a danger, like the skinny dipper, and they've "paid their debt" why label them at all. It is terrible that our justice system seems unwilling to distinquish between these kinds of cases.
That does help, thanks. I'm thinking, though, that the law should be making the distinction much earlier in the process (if that makes sense -- I don't speak legalese very well). Separate out the truly dangerous offenders from the not-so-dangerous ones early on, and thus make it easier to determine how their cases should be handled later when they're back in the community.
Good question, Gina! These laws are draconian in their scope. They apply to any people with the label of sex offender, whether their offense had anything to do with children or not and whether they continue to pose a risk to the public or not. It makes little sense to give someone who went skinny dipping once 10 years ago with the same long-term punishment as someone who did commit an abuse against children - and is likely to recommit. (It's important to note that committing a sex offense in the past does not at all mean a person will reoffend.) But, evidence has shown that these laws are also not effective in keeping dangerous sex offenders from new crimes. That's because most sex offenses occur against relatives or friends - not random strangers in public places. And, residency restrictions contribute to upheaval and instability in sex offenders' lives, making monitoring their activity and providing treatment for them difficult. These issues are really tough to grapple with. At this point, I think the best way to handle sex offenders in the community is to have corrections officers supervise them according to their risk level - and only use residency restrictions in the most extreme cases. Does that help answer your question?
I think we may need to define "draconian" more clearly. If we're talking about people who have definitely committed sexual attacks on children (leaving aside the cases like 19 year olds having sex with 17 year olds), is it truly draconian or paranoid to establish boundaries between them and children? And if it is, what kind of laws need to replace them?




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